The Lancia Thema is an executive car produced by the Italian automaker Lancia between 1984 and 1994, and one of four cars to share the Type Four platform alongside the Alfa Romeo 164, Fiat Croma and Saab 9000. The Thema was first shown in Turin Motor Show in 1984.
The Thema was available as a saloon and as a station wagon designed by Pininfarina, and was considered one of the most spacious and comfortable European cars of its time. In addition to the sedans, 21,074 Thema station wagons were built by Pininfarina between 1986 and 1994 in their Borgo San Paolo plant.
The Thema re-established Lancia as a high-quality luxury manufacturer with a galvanized steel chassis and rust protection that equaled or bettered that of its competitors. Build quality was higher than the Fiat Croma's and on par with the Saab 9000's. The sales organisation, however, was poor in many markets and secondhand values for the car suffered.
The first series was build between 1984 and 1988, the second series Thema was presented in the Paris Motor Show in September 1988 and was produced until 1992. The last series introduced in Paris Motor Show in September 1992 was produced between 1992-1994.
Production of the Thema ceased in 1994 when Lancia withdrew from right-hand drive markets (including the United Kingdom) in response to dwindling popularity and sales. (The station wagon version was never offered in right-hand drive.) Lancia continued, however, to be one of the most popular manufacturers in the Italian market and the Thema's replacement, the Lancia Kappa, sold well.
First shown at the Turin Auto Show in 1986, the Thema 8.32 ("8" standing for the number of cylinders and "32" for the number of valves) was assembled at Lancia's S. Paolo plant in Turin. It used a 2927 cc Ferrari V8. This engine was based on the unit used in the Ferrari 308 and in the Ferrari Mondial Quattrovalvole, and some of the componentry was assembled by Ducati from castings made at Maranello. The engine differed from other Ferrari V8s of the time in that it was equipped with a cross-plane type crankshaft rather than the usual flat-plane crankshaft, smaller valves and different firing order. All this to make the engine characteristics more suitable in a four-door luxury saloon. Both Series 1 and 2 cars in non catalysed form produced 215 PS (158 kW; 212 hp) and were capable of 0–100 km/h in 6.8 seconds and 240 km/h (149 mph) whilst catalysed versions were slightly detuned to 205 PS (151 kW; 202 hp) which gave 0–100 km/h in 7.2 seconds and 235 km/h (146 mph).
The car offered good performance and excellent refinement, including a luxurious hand made wood-and-leather interior by Poltrona Frau complete with the same luxury equipment as LX versions of the Thema. Unfortunately, a price tag of £40,000 (or more) in Britain, and the fact that only left hand drive versions were produced, limited its appeal with only 9 being officially sold there. This version of the Thema also sold in limited numbers in Italy with 2370 Series 1 built between 1986 and 1988 and 1601 Series 2 built between 1989 and 1992. 64 numbered vehicles were made, 32 series 1 and 32 series 2. These were only available in Ferrari-red.
Five non catalyst Thema 8.32s were exported to Taiwan and 2 of them still survive today.
Built only on request by wealthy customers, the Thema Limousine featured the same interior of the LX and the 8.32 versions. Most of them were powered by a 2.8 L PRV V6 engine, replaced in the last ones by the 3.0 L Alfa Romeo V6 engine. Only 24 Thema Limousine were built.
Thema powerplants originated from the Fiat engine series designed by Aurelio Lampredi, the famed engine designer formerly of Ferrari and Alfa Romeo. The straight-4 2.0 L petrol engine, available in both naturally aspirated and turbocharged versions, was refined and offered good performance. Earlier Themas were also offered with a 2.8 L PRV V6 engine, developed in cooperation with Peugeot, Renault, and Volvo. This unit was replaced in 1992 with a 3.0 L Alfa Romeo V6 engine (Fiat had bought Alfa Romeo in 1986 and gained access to this engine).